With Hurricane Linda sending solid waves to Lower Trestles, elite surfers who've been struggling took advantage at the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women's Pro, breathing new life into their seasons. Surfers who have been dominating took the opportunity to surge further ahead.
Two of the most conspicuous stumbles have been from World Champions Kelly Slater (USA) and Gabriel Medina (BRA), who have each discussed their rough roads in 2015. In the last couple of events, however, each has been more at ease and inching up the Jeep Leaderboard. Their momentum continued on opening day at Lowers. Slater set the bar high in the opening heat of the day, going rail to rail with massive laybacks.
"I think I've found a fresh perspective going into the back half of the season," Slater said. "I'm trailing so far behind at the moment, but I'd still say I've got a shot at the Title. I need a good result here so I have to go out there and relax, and not worry about the result."
Medina, meanwhile, earned the event's first ride in the nine-point range. Unfortunately, he came up against Freddy Patacchia (HAW), who unleashed a renewed determination. Patacchia, who announced in his post-heat interview he is withdrawing from the Hurley Pro and from the CT for the rest of the season, made his final matchup of the year count. After opening his heat with a wave that earned him 8.90, he went on to score a perfect 10. He left the lineup and hit rocky shore to fanfare, ending his season on a high note.
"I've been battling with what I want," he said afterward. "I want to do something differently in life. It's taken me a while to get to this point but I'm happy with my decision and I hope everyone can appreciate what I did throughout my surf career. I knew this day was going to come where I'd walk away from surfing but I want to still walk away hot."
In women's action, however, it was business as usual. The conditions proved optimal for last year's Innovation Award winner Lakey Peterson (USA), who put a nine-pointer on the scoreboard and defeated Hawaiians Alessa Quizon and Malia Manuel (HAW) to earn a spot in Round 3.
Courtney Conlogue (USA) proved worthy of her new yellow jersey -- signifying the Tour's top-ranked Jeep Leader -- scoring back-to-back excellent-range opening waves (excellent is 8.00 points or higher). She saved the best for last: Her final ride featured a quick barrel and a long line of precise turns that earned her a 9.17.
"It's amazing to be here and I can't believe the swell that we've got at this event," said Conlogue. "I feel pretty good and wearing the Jeep Leader jersey is great. There are still four events and Carissa (Moore) is right on my tail so I have to focus on my gameplan."
The Hurley Pro and Swatch Women's Pro will stream LIVE here and on the WSL App daily. Tune in for Dawn Patrol at 7:30 a.m. local time for a full analysis of Day 1 and a look at the big matchups on deck.